Grow It with Shrooms Yo

Young green company Ecovative Design is going to change the way we build things. That is, instead of building stuff, we’re going to grow stuff.

The company was founded by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, who were classmates at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In their senior Inventors’ Studio class, they hit on an incredible natural resource: mycelium, the fungus that makes up mushroom roots.

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Chris Lynch as pynchy: At the speed of glitch

“I don't really hold on to a particular image for too long,” says pynchy, aka Chris Lynch of Glitch Artists Collective. “I know whether it is going to work or not fairly quickly... and with the nature of glitch something completely different than want you were trying to achieve in the first place may be found.” There's always something hiding underneath the assumed simplicity of the images we see every day on the web – the ones we perceive as "finished" or "complete" offer a totally different range of options for glitchers.

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Way Home: Soonyoung Yoon's Bridge

The first human-made bridges were probably logs stretched over streams for easy crossing. Sounds simple, but the causal cognition required to manipulate nature for our benefit signifies an important leap in human evolution. More complex bridges, like Rama’s Bridge linking southern India to Sri Lanka 1.7 million years ago, had huge implications for migration, economies, politics, and even religion.

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You Are Where You Are: The Architectural Illustration of Tom Radclyffe

We are different people in different places. To move from place to place is to walk from stage to stage, assuming different roles with each change of scene. In a courtroom we might walk a little upright, on a subway we might slouch; at home we can relax or else assume some caregiving role while at work we’re a little tense or more focused. Alain de Botton writes in The Architecture of Happiness that “our identities are indelibly connected to, and will shift along with, our locations.”

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Collin Garrity: The Woodworker Bringing You into the Moment

True to Newton’s third law, every movement has its countermovement. In the digital age this has precipitated a trend toward everything physical, natural, human. Supposedly we’re getting even more sensitive to touch thanks to our smartphones. We see it manifest in design in the forms of hand lettering and specialty craft goods, from manual brew coffee to crochet socks. Sometimes we may even see it in a spinning top.

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Reformatting Our Lens: Drawing With Motion

As we become addicted to data through likes and followers, clouds and files, we are constantly after an idea of the digital "average" to correlate information that can be seen in both the digital and physical realms. We take photos, videos and audio clips to collect memories on our phone’s storage, hoping we get the best shots of whatever’s happening in front of us as we watch through the screen. Ultimately, we are becoming drawn to the precise memory of technology over the spontaneity of human interaction, despite what elements of those interactions are lost in the process.

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Luan Sherman: What Is an Artist?

At first, Luan Sherman wanted to be a fashion photographer. It sounded successful and stable - in a word, safe. But soon enough he discarded the safety net and jumped. Thank goodness he did. “People have a lot of misconceptions about fine arts,” he says. “I don’t even like to use that term because it feels old-fashioned.” Switching to his college’s painting department felt risky and right.

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Digital Textiles: How The Patternbase makes the tactile clickable

Even the most tactile art can be made digital.

That’s what The Patternbase, a website founded in May of 2011, is out to prove. Originally started by painter/graphic designer Kristi O’Meara as an archive of her favorite patterns, the Patternbase is now a growing creative community with a huge gallery of featured artists and a near-encyclopedic textile archive. Their goal is to build an online space that gives artists and designers access and resources they never had when textile design was strictly analog.

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MONOLITT: Translating the digital to the physical – and back again

Article by Hannah Neff

For just three hours, at the intersection of several busy districts of Oslo, Norway, a micro-monolith measuring 21 by 47 inches quietly oozed paint from its crown. From time to time, people walking by stopped to ogle the sculpture.

MONOLITT now rests in the corner of a studio, paint cracked and dried into psychedelic waves. But the installation lives on in a video uploaded to YouTube by grad students at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Syver Lauritzsen and Eirik Haugen Murvold. “We’re fifth-year students, so this isn’t our first rodeo,” said Lauritzsen. “But it is the first rodeo that’s gotten this kind of recognition.”

Watching the video, it’s easy to see why. When the first dollop of paint appears at the top of the statue, a bubblegum pink – it’s magical. It continues to pulse in alternating colors, soon accumulating enough to creep over the edge and down the sides. The effect is almost hypnotic, like the endless morphing in Andreas Hykade’s Love & Theft or seeing wax melt. Video manipulates, so time is warped: a viewer can play a clip again and again, for however long it’s online. Meanwhile, MONOLITT as an object ages.

“People were definitely more interested in just watching the paint rather than in what it meant,” Lauritzsen said. But Murvold and Lauritzsen came up with the idea for MONOLITT after brainstorming a way to combine paint and social media, wanting to make an “honest painting” reflective of the times. They played around with paintballs before being inspired by Holton Rower and his pour paintings. They then used keyword-spotting technology to connect colors to the emotions of Tweets broadcast in the area. With each message came a fresh spurt of paint. The result? An automatized mood map.

Made by Syver Lauritzsen and Eirik Haugen Murvold Music: Willas Rød - Float (Feat. Anna Lando) The Oslo School of Architecture and Design 2014

As shown in the clip, handfuls of people pass by the installation. Some glance at the statue, then keep walking. Others stop to stare, but not all realize that they might have a role in the layering of colors that puddle at the base.

“I really think every – oh, I hate the word art but – every good piece of art should have interest on multiple levels. I don’t think you should have to understand a piece in order to get some enjoyment out of it,” Lauritzsen said. “MONOLITT is successful because it works on a completely shallow level as well as on a more – call it philosophical level. And then maybe it works on an even higher, like, meta-level because of the attention it’s been getting.”

Social media was a key factor in more ways than one: as part of the planning process, Lauritzsen and Murvold discussed how to make MONOLITT as “viral friendly” as possible. The 3:22-long video hooks the viewer with the trance-like music of Willas Rød and Anna Lanto, while cameraman Liam Teal takes us through a careful selection of shots – Lauritzsen and Murvold in the studio, testing materials; the two setting up the installation; tweets being composed and then sent, the resulting paint that bubbles out. It acts as an artist’s statement, and the viewer’s decision to click-and-watch is the equivalent of a gallery-goer choosing to read about an exhibit rather than to simply stroll through.

The statue’s form is a nod to the massive Monolith in Frogner Park. In Murvold’s words, Monolith is “basically this tower of nude people crawling on top of each other.” It’s Oslo’s biggest tourist attraction:  the sheer height of the thing (57 feet) captivates onlookers, not to mention the peculiarity that is 121 naked figures, jam-packed, creating a granite column that extends into the sky. As far as the meaning goes, no one knows for sure – there are a number of an interpretations ranging from spiritual resurrection to cyclic repetition – but it doesn’t really matter. The spectacle itself is enough to draw in nearly two million visitors every year.  

Deliberately seeking out more information about MONOLITT to embrace the narrative of the installation allows for a more nuanced understanding of its intentions. But is it really so bad to just experience art? The most honest MONOLITT – whether digital or physical – seems to be the one that acts as an aggregator, mapping the seemingly-intangible, displaying the ever-changing “mood of the city.”

An alternative version of their installation – perhaps larger and active for a longer period of time, would give more breadth to the study of color, mood and culture. But limited resources meant that, for now, Lauritzsen and Murvold just had to get a prototype out there in its goopy, visceral state. And at the end of the day, “if you want to be acknowledged – ” Murvold began.

“ – you gotta let yourself be a little silly,” Lauritzsen finished.

Images courtesy of Syver Lauritzsen.

Pulpop MP3 Speaker: A Clean, Green, Sound Machine

Article by Taylor Kigar

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Have you ever wished for a sustainable, eco friendly speaker that also gives you an intense craving for donuts? Of course you have!

Enter Pulpop MP3 speaker, stage right.

This freestanding speaker designed by Balance Wu and Chin Yang with CKIE, is made out of recycled paper pulp, and is by far the greenest sound product on the market right now. The design builds on FeONIC’s SoundBug that first made its debut in 2002, who claimed that they could turn any surface into a speaker through sound vibration technology. But, what seemed too good to be true, sadly wasn’t, and the quality of sound left much to be desired.

However, the design Wu and Yang have engineered not only solves the quality of sound issue, but is truly what makes the speaker itself so sustainable and environmentally friendly. The donut shaped design with a hollow center gives the speaker vibration technology enough surface area to travel 360 degrees around the loop, giving it a clearer sound than speakers that depend only on the surface on which they’re resting. And though it’s great that the product is made out of recycled paper pulp, the fact that the design is completely hollow means that less material is actually being used, which is the real green feature we should all be pursuing these days.

The product itself is pressure molded, is roughly 10.2 x 11.6 x 2.4 inches, has a rechargeable battery with a USB charging port, and the MP3 player is connected through a 3.5mm input jack with an output of up to 5-watts RMS.

 Pulpop is priced at a reasonable $56, but keep in mind that there is a high risk of damaging or denting the thin paper surface, so these definitely are not portable. Still, this foray into green electronics is a genius and inventive one-two-punch of problem solving design, so kick back and relax with those Krispy Kreme donuts you had to pick up, and enjoy your sustainable speaker.

Images courtesy of CKIE

Article by Taylor Kigar

The Future is a Porous Solid

Aerogel is one of the lightest materials in the world, with an extremely low density and low thermoconductivity. That makes it an excellent insulator – NASA has already used it in space suits and the Mars Rover, and the Georgia Institute of Technology used it in its 2007 Solar Decathlon house project as part of the skylight. That’s the other thing – it looks like frozen smoke, because its nano-sized dendritic structure scatters light the same way our atmosphere does, appearing blue against dark backgrounds (re: the sky) and yellow against bright ones (re: the sun).

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Wearable Tech: A New Frontier

Article by Raine Blunk

Each year, the music festival season is full of new innovations. Who doesn’t remember that performance by a holographic Tupac at Coachella? While OutKast’s return to the show circuit is arguably one of the biggest innovations of the 2014 festival season, there are a few examples of wearable technology already a part of the festival scene that starting to hit the market that have the potential to overhaul our future festival experiences.

One of the most prevalent examples of wearable tech at festivals is the silent disco, which uses two-channel headphones for late night dancers to get down without disturbing their sleeping counterparts. The silent disco was first brought to Bonnaroo eight years ago by a company called Silent Events (they have since coordinated the technology for SXSW, Wakarusa, and Camp Bisco, to name a few).

Some of the newer uses of wearable technology have been through NFC-connected wristbands. ClearHart Digital sponsored wristband connected internet kiosks for the Outside Lands festival in 2013.  This year, Counter Point Music Festival offered the same technology for festival goers to connect their debit cards and pay vendors wirelessly. These advances in tech-related experiences at festivals beg the question, “When do we get even better, cooler stuff?”

More and more brands are jumping on the “user experience” train at festies through free services like cell phone charging stations (because EVERYONE needs their iPhone fully charged to snap photos of the end of Pretty Light’s set!). Although having a phone with you at a festival can be a necessity for finding friends when they leave you at the portapotty, it’s also a buzzkill to realize your inebriated ass left your brand new iPhone 5 on a bench near the pizza vendor two hours ago.

The M-Dress from CuteCircuit could be the key to all those drug-induced cell phone disappearances. By inserting an active SIM card into a slot embedded in the tag, users can make and receive phone calls without their phone. Say goodbye to double checking your pockets every two seconds and hello to enjoying festivals phone free.

The M Dress from CuteCircuit

The M Dress from CuteCircuit

Depending on what kind of festival you’re going to, the musicians performing might not have much to look at besides a big light set and a DJ booth. That being said, what would a festival be like if all the artists were using wearable music-making technology like Imogen Heap’s Musical Gloves?

Heap’s glove project uses Bluetooth-enabled gloves to translate her hand movements into specific commands on Ableton. The software will be open sourced, so over the next several years, we could see DJs recording the software to emulate the motions used on a mixing table. No more DJ booth means a closer and more detailed interaction with the DJs and an entirely new perspective to the music we love.

But no matter how much we love the music, it’s impossible to deny that most festivals aren’t the most environmentally friendly. Thousands of people getting trashed for three days means there’s a lot of trash to clean up, and the music equipment certainly isn’t an energy saver. So what if festival goers could generate some of the energy themselves?

TegWear Technology absorbs body heat and converts it into energy for wearable electronic devices. While the technology can currently generate only milliwats of energy based on the placement and utilization of the “flexible thermoelectric material,” in the upcoming years we could see similar products that allow users to store the captured energy and then transfer it to a third party. How much energy could be generated by festivalgoers wearing TegWear t-shirts or hats? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

While everyone loves a good sponsored hashtag for festival photos or a free bag of trail mix from a vendor, the wearable technology industry should jump on the festie train to get the ultimate beta testing experience. If these developing wearable tech brands could see the same benefits in Bonnaroo that OutKast does, the future festival seasons could make Daft Punk’s aesthetic way more relevant.

NONdesign Topo Tables: Breaking the Flat Line

Article by Taylor Kigar

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Who decided that all tables had to be flat?

Really. I want to know. Is there a secret society made up of old men smoking pipes that have just silenced all forward thinkers in the world of adventurous tables?

Well fear no longer, because partners Scott Franklin and Miao Miao of NONdesigns have engineered a concept to satisfy all your wildest table dreams. The Topo table is completely customizable with small plastic inserts you can move to form either positive or negative space. It’s like having control over a little landscape, being the cartographer of your living room, like owning one of those zen gardens but better. The inserts are molded over different sized stones to create beautiful organic shapes and can be as utilitarian or decorative as possible. If you’re going for the useful route, Topo tables are ideal for holding office supplies at your desk r fresh herbs in your kitchen. But if you just want to have a little fun, flip it over to break up the flat monotony of your coffee table. Pretend it’s an igloo for your imaginary Eskimo friend named Carl or make it a cool skate spot for those little tech decks all the kids stopped playing with in the 90’s.

The tables are sold in two different sizes, (72"L x 29"W x 29"H for the small table, and 96"L x 29"W x 29"H for the large) and both are made with Corian and Powder coated steel, common elements found in your usual kitchen counter.

This product is just one of the many ingenious solutions from NONdesigns, located in Pasadena, California. It’s the perfect example of their mission to join good problem solving with soul, personality, and creativity, and to make each product a reflection of the person that owns it.

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Article by Taylor Kigar

Images courtesy of NONdesign

Ready Made Curtain

The genius of the Ready Made Curtain lies in the simplicity of the Bouroullecs’ inspiration: a guitar string. A guitar string relies on tension, being pinned at the bridge and wound at the head. The Ready Made Curtain is a simple roll of fabric the user cuts to size and hangs with clips on a string, which can be wound to fit any window the way a silk string is wound to fit any guitar.

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The ZUtA Pocket Printer: Tiny Product, Big Impact

Article by Taylor Kigar

All the office tools of the 21st century have become mobile, except for one: the printer. We’re all out working on our tablets and laptops, but when it’s time to print out the final piece, we’re pulled back to that box in the back room. But thanks to Matan Caspi and Tuvia Elbaum, graduates of the Jerusalem College of Technology, that’s all about to change.

The ZUtA Pocket Printer is the first completely portable prototype that can wirelessly print from your smartphone, computer, or tablet onto any size paper. Weighing a mere 300 grams and only 10x11.5 cm, it has a sleek teardrop shaped body of polycarbonate that glides over the print surface with the help of an omni-wheel system and high resolution sensor. It also comes with a fully rechargeable battery, each charge lasting about an hour.

It’s like Caspi and Elbaum took the idea of the moving cartridge inside today’s printers and gave it a driver’s license. The current prototype prints black and white at 96x192 dpi at 1.2 pages a minute, but with a fully funded kickstarter, and lots of big name company offers (including an opportunity to present at Microsoft’s innovation event earlier this month called ThinkNext) the possibilities for this little robot are unimaginable.

The ZUtA team turned to Kickstarter to fund their project and have already reached their goal two weeks early, but there’s still time to donate until May 10th. The funds raised will be used to order the custom-made parts for the final product, and will also go towards further research to solve the problem of the printer to resume performance if knocked off the page (which would be very necessary for households with cats, as a few commenters admitted).

But with enough support and future research, the world of printing will be changed forever. Gone would be the days of those pesky drivers—the printer is controlled by Bluetooth, so no installing when moving from device to device. And fine artists won’t need printers the size of spaceships to create large photographs or posters either. Just a trusty little robot, chugging along quietly to its own little tune. The ZUtA might be small now folks, but its impact could be very big.

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Article by Taylor Kigar

Images courtesy of Zuta Labs

+Farm

In a unique partnership that allows participants access to the house and land to work on projects that directly impact the estate, +FARM brings students and young professionals together with craftsmen, fabricators, architects, digital specialists, and educators. They design their ideas in the field, away from the insulation of the design studio, immersed instead in the character of the community they aim to save.

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Tires made from dandelions

Article by Cassie Stepanek

Leading tire manufacturer Continental and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology has teamed up to create "Rubin"- rubber that is made from the latex of dandelion plants for tire production.

Natural rubber is already in high demand. However, the latex that is extracted from trees to make natural rubber that is made today only comes from trees that grow in remote parts of the tropics.

"We expect to be able to produce large amounts of dandelion rubber with at least equivalent performance properties to conventional rubber harvested from rubber trees. And as a result, we will put ourselves in a position where we are much less dependent on the annual harvest situation in the subtropical growing regions."

- Dr. Andreas Topp, Head of Material and Process Development and Industrialization for Tires at Continental


"The production of rubber from dandelion roots is far less weather-dependent than production from rubber trees. Furthermore, the new system is so undemanding in terms of agricultural requirements that it opens up a whole new potential- particularly for areas of land in Europe that are currently uncultivated. By growing the crops much closer to our production sites, we can also significantly reduce the burden on the environment and our outlay for logistics" 

- Nikolai Setzer, Head of the Tire Division at Continental

Graphene: The Future of Tech Materials

Article by Raine Blunk

Graphene. It sounds like the name of a fancy pencil, and as far from the truth as that is, it’s also pretty close. According to Graphenea, Graphene producers and distributors, it’s a material made of a one-atom thick layer of carbon bonded in a honeycomb lattice. Sounds simple enough, but it’s been hailed as the revolutionary material of the very near future by industry professionals and scientists alike.

This “miracle material” (as hailed by CNN in an October 2013 article) was discovered just ten years ago by two scientists who used Scotch tape to isolate thin layers of graphite. While they’d originally used the tape to clean the lab of loose graphite, they quickly realized that their leftover tape could hold the secret to a variety of advancements in nanotech.

Apparently we’ve come a long way since the original discovery of graphene in 2004. Just yesterday, a team of Irish scientists discovered they could produce graphene using household items like a blender and dish soap in their search for an easier way to produce large quantities of the carbon-based material.

American Resources

American Resources


Although making graphene at home isn’t suggested, we should be seeing the material in our products soon. The National Science Foundation explains that graphene, because it is “strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat,” is the perfect material for increased “thermal cycle stability.” So what exactly does that mean for us? Battery operated devices with longer lives and stronger charges, UV-sensing contact lenses, super fast uploads, and even less nuclear waste in the atmosphere, just to name a few of the ways we could be using graphene soon.

Graphene is also being tested by companies like Samsung as an added layer to their silicon wafers for the future of flexible computers (like in their Galaxy watch). But one thing might prevent the use of graphene on a large scale in the technology industry: legacy materials.

The copper and aluminum parts currently used in commercial devices can’t withstand the same temperatures that graphene can, which means it might be years before graphene is used on a wide scale.

Enago

Enago


Even with some trouble in the widespread application of graphene, scientists and critics are optimistic that the material will be a game changer in the ways we manufacture tech products. So here’s to the future of graphene: one with hiccups along the way that can (hopefully) be solved with something as simple as a piece of Scotch tape.

(Short video produced by the European Graphene-Flagship Initiative)